Winter Blues in Lancaster County?

Do the Amish in Lancaster County get the winter blues? I watch droplets splattering the front lawn and hope the rain eases up before my morning walk. I’ve heard depression heightens in January and February in the Pacific Northwest.

Minutes ago, my house brightened with a flick of a switch. As I sip my morning java, I feel our home filling with warmth and ponder the fact Amish intentionally don’t use central heating so families congregate together. I recall public power was banned in Lancaster County Amish homes in the twenties because electrical outlets were considered to be an invitation to intrusions from the outside world. The Amish do use modern devices in limited ways: natural gas and battery powered lights, and diesel lights to illuminate buggies. Stephen Scott’s Amish Houses & Barns is a great resource for more information.

It’s still dark outside, but if I lived on a farm, cows would demand milking and women would be busy in the kitchen preparing a hearty breakfast, a feast Dr. Oz would probably not approve of. The children eighth grade and under might be gathering eggs or doing other chores before diving into a sumptuous meal (Is there a better aroma than bacon, freshly baked bread, or muffins?) then zipping off to one-room schoolhouses that dot the county. Then the women would tidy up the kitchen and might tackle laundry.

The Amish kitchen is the hub of activity and conversation, so having my husband depart for work would not leave me alone for the day. I’d be the woman standing at the stove flipping pancakes as I did when my children were young, plus possibly cooking for grandparents and extended family, but without modern gadgets or a dishwasher.

I remember driving my sons to school on winter mornings, not all that cold compared to Lancaster County once the temperature drops. After spending the night in our garage, our car’s heat blasted out in moments. This morning, I imagine Amish kids climbing into buggies wearing wool coats and mittens. I’ve been told buggies fare better than cars in the snow, up to 3 feet deep; their horses can be specially shod for snow and ice. Or the kids walk. They take only three days off for Christmas, so their school year will end by spring planting. After the school day, kids aren’t bored, nor do they switch on video games, call a friend, or get on Facebook. Once snow blankets the county, they’ll enjoy snowball fights and ice-skating, followed by mugs of hot chocolate and homemade cookies. Yummy! Board games are a popular pastime.

In winter, women might use cold days to bake, quilt, darn, clean and wash, and read, sometimes library books. They get together for social times such as quilting frolics, perhaps fashioning a quilt as a donation for a non-profit or a newlywed couple.

cocoaMen, who labor with gusto the other three seasons, have time on their hands to catch up on household repairs, equipment maintenance, do carpentry, and hunt. No sitting in front of the TV set watching the football game. When putting up their feet, they might peruse a newspaper such as The Budget, established in 1890 and published every Wednesday in Sugarcreek, Ohio. The paper is very popular and distributed to Amish and Mennonite communities across America.

All this talk of baking makes me want to put on my apron and make muffins. But first, hot chocolate!